Yokuts Valley: Respect or Racism?

Photo by Bob McCloskey
Photo by Bob McCloskey

The Fresno County Board of Supervisors are making a last-ditch attempt to hold on to S— Valley and erase the town’s new name, Yokuts Valley. The supervisors voted 3-2 for a charter amendment that would put place naming and renaming power under their control. The amendment will appear on the March 4 primary election ballot as Measure B.

Supervisors Nathan Magsig, Buddy Mendes and Steve Brandau, along with some vocal residents, remain blind to past and present injustices against Native Americans and to the present-day derogatory meaning of the s— term. S— Valley was renamed Yokuts Valley by the state and federal governments after extensive public input that prioritized the recommendations of local tribes. Yokuts is an inclusive ethnic and regional term encompassing many tribes in the central Sierra foothills and Central Valley.

The residents and the supervisors who fail to embrace Yokuts Valley profoundly disrespect the opinions and experience of Native Americans who have lived here for many generations and have educated us.

At Supervisor Magsig’s so-called community meeting, we learned from Kenneth Woodrow, chair of the Wuksachi tribe, that during the 1850–1870 California genocide against Native Americans this valley was filled with indigenous women when it got its name because the men were murdered for bounties offered by the governor beginning in 1855.

We learned from public comment by Delaine Bill at the Board of Supervisors about the bullying endured by Native American kids on the Dunlap school bus riding through S— Valley.

We learned from Dunlap Mono tribal vice chair Shirley Guevara and her daughter, Taweah Garcia, about the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, in shocking percentages higher than any other group.

Finally, the name Yokuts Valley supports local indigenous tribes’ efforts to gain federal recognition. Roman Raintree, who launched the renaming campaign in 2020, noted that 18 treaties with 120 tribes were destroyed when California became a state and that, today, California and Fresno County have the largest number of tribes still seeking acknowledgement as Native Americans from the federal government.

Ending the name S— Valley for the ancestral homeland of local tribes and the renaming of Yokuts Valley are essential steps forward. Voting no on Measure B will support Yokuts Valley.

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